Are you a family caregiver for older adults? If so, you know that senior care can be challenging to juggle all of the responsibilities that come with it. That’s why we’ve put together this checklist to help make things a little bit easier for you.
This article is meant to give adult children who have become caregivers some tips and tools on what to expect and how to deal with the issues that may come up as you care for your senior loved one.
For a complete checklist to use on a daily basis – take a look at these great Logbooks that you can use to help you to stay organized and on top of all your loved ones care needs. Tools like this can give you some peace of mind and help you to avoid caregiver burnout.
What Caregiver Tasks Include
First, let’s go over, generally, what a family caregiver can expect to do for their senior loved one.
Mind you, every situation and every family will have their own specific needs, but generally speaking, these are the types of things that most family caregivers may be responsible for.
- Checking on compliance with prescription drugs and/or dispensing medication.
- Helping with personal care and activities of daily living (ADL’s) which includes toileting, showering, grooming, oral hygiene, toileting, eating, meal preparation, transferring (i.e. from bed to wheelchair), mobility assistance (i.e., using a walker, etc.)
- Grocery shopping, meal prep and cleaning, maintaining the household.
- Financial planning (i.e. budgeting and managing household expenses)
- Communicating with and managing your senior’s health insurance matters.
- Transportation to medical appointments, a social engagement, etc.
- Run errands for the household.
- Being prepared for an emergency situation such as a fire or a natural disaster.
- Providing companionship to the senior loved one(s).
- Assist with any ongoing therapy and/or medical management.
- Communicate with doctors, insurance companies, hospitals, etc.
- Keeping their senior loved one compliant with their care plan.
- Keep family members informed and educated on their senior loved ones status.
There are many responsibilities that come with caregiving. It’s a good idea to know what your role will be: will you be a caregiver or a caretaker? There are important differences between the two.
Having this awareness can go a long way in helping you to avoid conflict and provide better quality of life for yourself, as well as the older person or family member in need.
The Checklist For Family Caregivers Of Senior Loved Ones
Below is a caregiver checklist of what should be done when you begin caring for your elderly parent or other older adult.
- Ensure that you have all the legal paperwork and important documents in order. Check our article on what legal documents you should have in place.
- Make an appointment (if you haven’t yet) with an elder law attorney. You’ll want to discuss a durable power of attorney, health care proxy, living wills, any funeral arrangements that have already been made and paid for, and more.
- Have the talk (if applicable) about the your senior’s financial situation. This means being aware of the bank accounts, financial advisors and other financial issues.
- Gather as much information about any condition(s) that your senior loved one is dealing with. Speak with their doctors. Join support groups, facebook groups, etc. Read as much as you can to educate yourself on what you and your senior will be dealing with. If there is a national organization that deals with the illness (i.e. Alzheimer’s Association) contact them as well.
- Contact your local agencies on aging or your physician to find out where you can get training on how to lift someone properly, what to do if their blood pressure is too low or too high, signs of dehydration, etc. Check the website caregiver.org for local resources in your area.
- Make a list of ALL the needs that your loved one currently requires. This could include anything from needing help with showering to handling the remote control. Be as specific as possible.
- Consult with your family and/or a social worker to help you decide how to best meet these needs.
- If possible, immediately seek outside help. It could be help with the household chores, or help with your senior parent or just some respite care help so that you (the caregiver) can get away for several hours on a regular basis.
- Set up a binder to keep all your medical paperwork and notes that you collect from doctor visits.
- Use a medical records book like this one to keep track of prescriptions, surgeries, etc.
- Modify the house / apartment so that it’s as safe and senior friendly as possible. See our article on the types of modifications we recommend.
- But if your senior loved one will, at some point, be moving to an assisted living facility or nursing home, check out the ones that you are considering. Begin taking your loved one there for some meals / events. It will help with the transition when and if it happens.
- Notify your friends and family that you are now caregiving for your senior loved one and do not be shy about asking for help when it’s needed.
- If you are continuing to work, notify your employer of your new responsibilities and see if you qualify for any FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) or what other arrangements your company can provide for you during this time.
What Do Family Caregivers Need?
Most family caregivers are unpaid, yet they may provide (on average) 40.5 hours per week of care over an extended period. In addition to caring for a senior loved one, some family caregivers may also have full or part-time jobs and families of their own.
As of 2020, AARP estimates there are more than 53 million family caregivers across the United States. These caregivers often provide care for family members who are over the age of 50, and they receive no compensation for their help.Homecareassistancemesa.com
In addition to the long hours, the physical and emotional toll that caregiving presents, many family caregivers will also encounter significant expenses related to the medical treatment of a senior loved one and will need to make difficult decisions about spending, regardless of their income level.
So, what is it that family caregivers need the most?
Here are 5 of the most important things that we believe family caregivers need the most. Both Robin and I have been through the caregiving phase of our lives and this list is based on our own personal experiences.
1) Physical, emotional and financial support from family and friends
There will be times when caregiving of a senior loved one will simply become overwhelming and the caregiver begins to feel isolated, forgotten and depressed.
At times, caregivers may appear short-tempered or irritable, which is understandable given the stress that they are under.
Family members, peers and professionals need to understand why the caregiver is behaving in this way and take steps to relieve their stress.
It’s extremely important for family and friends to jump in and provide support for their loved one (the caregivers).
One way to do this is to have “meetings”. Whether they be with friends and/or family, it’s important to make decisions together and who can do what to help the primary caregiver care for their senior loved one(s).
Financially speaking – some states in the USA do have programs that can pay for family caregiving so you will want to check out what your area has to offer. You can find that information here.
2) Encouragement to seek outside help
It seems silly, but the majority of family caregivers simply do not ask for help.
A new AARP study shows that only 46 percent of family caregivers ask for, or look for, help. That means there are a lot of haggard and harried family members who are doing the care themselves. And, no surprise here—it’s often one adult child (typically a daughter and/or child who lives closest) who does more than her fair share—sometimes way more.Familycaregivercouncil.com
Family and friends should strongly encourage and keep reminding the primary caregiver that it’s extremely important for them to reach out for help from a variety of sources.
- Support groups
- Local and government programs and organizations (i.e. Alzheimer’s association, Parkinson’s foundation, etc.)
- Social workers and geriatric care managers
- Health care aides
- House maids and home cleaning companies
If you aren’t aware of what a geriatric care manager can do for you – read about them here.
All of these resources can help not only the caregiver but the senior loved ones as well.
3) Involvement in support groups
Caregiver support groups, including those offered by such organizations as the American Cancer Society and Alzheimer’s Association, can be very helpful in providing family caregivers with the tools they need to remain strong on their journey.
Support groups meet regularly to share common experiences and information.
These meetings can help family caregivers feel less isolated, support their efforts, empower them with knowledge to make the best decisions for the senior loved one’s care, and provide comfort to know they are not alone in what they are experiencing.
4) Assistive devices and tools
Family caregivers need assistive devices and tools to help care their senior loved ones. These tools can include bath benches, walkers, grab bars in the bathroom and other sturdy products that will make senior loved ones more comfortable and prevent injuries.
5) Time away from caregiving duties
Caregivers need to maintain personal relationships with friends, relatives, and others. Family caregivers must remember that they need to take time for themselves.
What Resources Do Caregivers Need Most?
Besides tapping into friends and family, there are many wonderful third party resources that caregivers can and should take advantage of.
In The United States
- Parkinson’s Foundation
- Alzheimer’s Association
- Meals on Wheels
- Cancer Support Groups
- Canadian Caregiver Coalition
In The United Kingdom
I urge you to check through your local and national resources to see what is available for you and your family.
What Caregivers Should Not Do
After going through caregiving for our elderly parents, we can look back and realize some things that we should have NOT done! So, let us share our list with you to hopefully help you to avoid these mistakes.
- Do not think that you can do everything. Depending on how long you will be a caregiver, doing everything all the time will wear on you and sometimes break you.
- Do not brush away help from others. Accept and even ask for help from friends and family and community support services.
- Do not ignore your own family, spouse, children, yourself! YOU are the priority.
- Do not discount the importance of using a mental health counselor during the time that you are caring for a senior loved one.
We hope that this list will help you to get through your caregiving duties in a healthy way.
How Can A Caregiver Relax?
A close friend of mine recently lost her elderly father and she is now in charge of caring for her elderly mother. It’s a new role for her and one that she is having great difficulty with.
She is going through not only the grief over her father’s death, but guilt of not being able to help her mother 24/7.
Caregiver guilt can make you feel as though you’re being inconsiderate and selfish by taking time for yourself. A guilt-ridden caregiver who finally does decide to take a much-needed break may find themselves so consumed by remorse that it’s impossible to enjoy it.Agingcare.com
Unfortunately, my friend is going through a very common scenario and I am working hard to help her get through it and to learn to let it go so that she can relax more and enjoy the last few months or years that she has with her mother.
So here are some ways that caregivers can relax and de-stress.
- Meditation and Yoga are excellent tools to help you not only take time for yourself but also to breath deeper which gives you more oxygen and relaxation. Try this 15 minute meditation video to help you get started.
- Using aromatherapy with meditation and yoga can help greatly.
- Reading self help books on the topic of caregiving and stress management can give you tips and tools that you can use in your own life.
- Having a regularly scheduled outing away from your caregiving duties. This could be an hour a week to get your nails done or go grocery shopping or lunch with friends – anything that you find relaxing.
- Give yourself the gift of Self Worth by incorporating the excellent tools in the Coffee Self Talk books. You won’t regret it!
- Write in a journal. This practice not only helps you to get out your emotions and aggressions, but it also chronicles your loved ones life as well. (If that is something you wish to chronicle.)
- Get a massage once a month or more.
- Exercise! Taking a 30 minute walk outside every day can really give you some space away and help you to get some clarity on your life’s circumstances. If you can’t leave the house – Then I would suggest using a treadmill to get your exercise in.
- Some people find a bubble bath to be very soothing. If you’re one of those, then give yourself one on a regular schedule.
What Are The Signs Of Caregiver Abuse?
The challenge of caring for an elderly loved one is difficult enough, but when the caregiver is subjected to abuse by that senior person – well – the job becomes much more difficult.
Many caregivers may not even be aware that they are being abused.
The truth is, you may not recognize how abusive they are towards you simply because it may be that they have always been that way – except now it seems moreso!
We’ve all heard about the dangers of elder abuse, but there is an equally serious issue of abuse toward caregivers that goes largely unaddressed. Sadly, caregiver abuse is all too common.Agingcare.com
Of course, most everyone recognizes physical abuse. If your elderly parent or loved one suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease or some other illness that cause cognitive decline – they may be physically abusive without intention.
In other words, they don’t know what they are doing.
The more subtle form of abuse is emotional. This comes in the form of “words” and although they may not leave a bruise on your skin, they definitely leave a bruise on your mental health.
Here are some signs of emotional abuse that you may not be aware of.
- Name calling – a childish activity for certain. This could be anything from “stupid” to “you can’t do anything”.
- Absolute words – when someone uses terms like “she always” – that of course is not accurate and it’s basically exaggerating and criticizing.
- Patronizing – I call this the Marie Barone (from Everybody Loves Raymond) effect. A criticism covered up!
- Dismissive – when someone belittles your feelings or something that you shared that you feel is important.
- Insults – when someone criticizes your appearance, how you perform a task, your intellect, etc.
I encourage you (the caregiver) to seek out a counselor who can help you to deal with these issues of emotional abuse. You will not change the person who is hurling them at you.
In my experience both as an Occupational Therapist working with geriatrics and personally, the only change you can make is in how you respond to this abuse.
But, generally speaking, here are some things that I’ve learned in how to deal with this.
- Know, more than anything else that YOU are not the cause of this abuse. It’s not your problem, you are not making the mistake.
- Avoid fighting – it does no one any good. I found that when someone is abusive to me, I would simply say something like “I’m sorry you are having such a bad day.” This often diffused the situation.
- Don’t attempt to fix them or expect to fix your senior loved one.
- Do all you can to realize that this behavior is their dysfunction. I would often think of that person as a head injured person. I would tell myself, “Would I be angry at someone who is head injured? They don’t know what they are saying.” This would help me to realize that they are really lashing out at themselves and I just happen to be in the way.
- Get away as much as possible to give yourself some breathing space. This is where respite help comes in. Don’t be shy, ever, about asking for help.
I hope these tips help you as you work so very hard to care for your senior loved one.
There’s a lot to think about when you’re a family caregiver for a senior. You want to make sure they’re comfortable and safe, and that their needs are being met. That can be a lot of work, but it’s worth it to know your loved one is in good hands.